November 18, 2008


August 28, 2008


The Small Man continues to mutate and morph into progressively more versatile and dangerous transmogrifications. Now upright, free-roaming, and largely uncontained (the gates hold, but only just), his strength and speed have grown exponentially, his arsenal of abilities now seemingly limitless.

Most alarmingly, he now charges and rams like a drunken rhinoceros, and climbs like a caffeinated monkey. He also clamps on and sucks like an amorous lamprey — mainly on the Rodent, but once or twice he's come slurping after me.

On top of that, he giggles like a deranged hyena and bellows like a constipated baboon.

Grabs like a squid, fidgets like a prairie dog, bounces like a gazelle.

Drinks like a fish. Farts like a dachshund.

Looks like the Man.

Help me.

August 01, 2008

Shmulag 17

Dark times. Dark and weird.

The Man has again delivered me unto the nefarious Dr. Fingerer. Only this time, strangely enough, no experiments. No tubes, no apparati, no fingers down the throat, no probes up the unmentionable. Just... containment.

Three days now I've been boxed up -- a clear view of the laboratory and the chamber of horrors, but I feel more like the observer than the observed this time. Nevertheless, a cage is a cage, and I remain endlessly alert, ready to make my break, ready to slit the first exposed throat that comes along.

And yet, there is something benign about this place this time around. Kind words, good food — and I'm dealing mainly with Fingerer's toadies, who I admit have been rather pleasant. No sign of the madman himself. Why?

There must be darker forces at work here. Possibly I am the control for some twisted experiment currently happening to another fellow? I am the unaltered subject? A disturbing thought.

Here's the other thing. Twice a day, I am being... combed. Combed? What the hell? What possible purpose can there be to imprisonment coupled with involuntary semidaily grooming? If my presentability is of such critical import, to whom am I to be presented?

One thing about it, though — I caught a glimpse of a mirror during yesteday's afternoon coiffiture, and damn, I look good.

May 29, 2008

Diablo Ex Machina

I am not yet dead.

On the contrary, the twice-daily injections of felina-suprema serum have given me the strength of legion.

I am however, cut off from the comm chamber by the manically rapid and lurchingly sudden motions of Small Man. He has gone beyond simple mobility — he now has vehicles. One, a light and highly maneuverable speedster festooned with colorful weaponry; the other, a heavily armored assault juggernaut. The gating system keeps him contained, but with each subsequent impact at full ramming speed, I wonder just how far the envelope can be pushed.

Very much in the spirit of his progenitor, Small Man has also begun to construct strange and nightmarish equipment of uncertain function. The most devious of these involves a gaping spout and large red plunger that, when activated, roars to life, spitting orbs of death skyward while blaring a mind-melting “melody” of insane bells, blurps, thunks, and whammies. These hellballs then spiral down a sinister corkscrew back into the mechanical innards of the beast, only to be spat aloft once more in their dance of perpetual menace.

All this I observe from distance and relative safety behind the gates. But I tell you, on the day I see Small Man loading his deathball blaster into his assault vehicle, I'm heading for the hills.

March 31, 2008

Not OK corral

The Small Man has mutated into a lurching lightningbolt of sudden and unrestrained mobility. There is no place that he is not, no haven from his sticky clutchings, no shelter from his perpetual regurgitance. He seems unimpressed by my many warnings, and totally disrespectful of my zone of death. I have even brought claws to bear on the situation, with somewhat dramatic, and rather impolitic results.

The playing field, though, has now changed. In a throwback to the Great Rodent Bulwarking of yesteryear, the Man and the Woman have resorted to the interpolation of gating mechanisms. These are not of the detachable plastic-mesh variety as before, but of polished wood, solidly mounted on hinges — a clear suggestion of permanance.

The strategic placement of these confinement units is almost identical to those which once contained the Rodent — two units positioned at key egress junctions effectively divide the fortress into fore and aft sections. The forward areas include the main ops center with its large viewport, big box, and generous disposition of cushions; access to the primary airlock; the main communications hub housed within the vertical coffin; the Man's elaborate chemistry set; and the conference annex with its long table and numerous chairs.

The rear section includes the main chamber (my current operational HQ) and the corridor; Fabio's old office with its cool floor and multiple spigots; the mess and staging area; and perhaps most importantly — access to both the entire lower bunker and the critically important rear airlock. Strategically, this is the area you want to be in when the doors slam home.

Most of the time, I have noted that when lockdown is in effect, I am the one contained to the rear areas. The Man, the Woman, the Rodent, and the Small Man almost always congregate in the much smaller (if more comfortable) forward rooms. I haven't precise calculations, but I estimate that this arrangement leaves me with 74.8% of fortress entirely to myself.

This should be an agreeable situation, should it not? I certainly have my flag on the lion's share of the field. Still, there are questions to be answered here. Exactly who is being contained, for one thing? Does this rewalling of the fortress indicate that the Small Man, now explosively mobile and single-minded in his grabbiness, is being corralled for the betterment of the world? Or... or: am I being excluded from some larger nefarious scheme?

I mean, why give me the better three quarters of the fortress? Why are the rest of them closing ranks? And why, in the name of all that's sanitary, are the Small Man and the Rodent never more than arm's (or tongue's) length from one another? Perhaps these new enlosures are not keeping them in, but keeping me out.

I smell a plot. I smell a careful and deliberate plot that includes everyone but Shmool. And its secrets lie on the other side of these bars.

I begin my tunnelling tonight.

February 22, 2008

Objects on floor may be quicker than they appear

I'm afraid I must keep this short — can't afford to take my eyes off the horizon these days. Things have taken an ill-boding turn around here. The Small Man is suddenly, and wildly, in motion.

Of course, it had not escaped my notice that his sphere of grabbance has been increasing. With the addition of a few new moves to his repertoire, including some outrageous spins and lunges, I confess that he's caught even me off guard now and then. There have been a few near misses, including one incident in which I was forced to apply a warning punch directly to the Small Man's puffy face.

I would have thought we might just leave it at that. But alas, alas.

He has now acquired the power of forward motion. Not precisely forward, I suppose, in the straight-line sense, but damn near close enough. He lumbers about on all fours, clumsily and wobbily but with surprising and explosive speed — somewhat like a hermit crab with the trots crossing a bed of hot coals.

The first sign of real trouble came this afternoon. I witnessed the Small Man galumphing noisily after the Rodent, who incidentally seemed not terribly concerned about all this. Then he wheeled and, catching sight of me clear across the room, abruptly lurched forward and of all things, pursued me. Giggling. Clumping violently along — whomp whomp whomp whomp — and giggling. Like a maniac. And really moving. Well, damn. I mean, over the years I've seen a lot of things coming at me, but this was just nuts.

So I got the hell out. Out, out and away. Fortunately, for all his speed and suddenness, he is mightily lacking in the stealth department. So if I keep my senses honed, I should be able to remain a few paws ahead of him. Let us all hope so, anyway.

Because the last thing I need is to get worked into a corner by this emergent marauder. I've seen what happens when he gets ahold of something, and I'll not be slurped, blurped, nor otherwise bespittled in any fashion.

January 30, 2008

I find these geometrically homogeneous meatbits intriguing

Now this is just not natural.

I have slain and ingested many a strange creature over my many years, from the plump, bitterish fly to the dry-yet-velvety moth; from the succulent, squirty mouse to the butternutty squirrel (melts in your mouth); from the exquisite, delectable finch to the gaggishly chewy, nasty-boy-nasty crow.

And none, none of these critters was ever even remotely squarish. Boxy, at best — but never square. And certainly not cubic.

Yet somehow, I am now being served a rather disturbing oddity: tiny squishy meat cubes.

Unsettling, to say the least. This cannot be good. What manner of varmint is so configured to yield such small, perfectly matched polyhedronic bits? Certainly nothing I have encountered. Are these bugs? Mollusks? They taste distinctly mammalian — but any mammal of such dimensions as could accommodate meatblocks of this kind must surely be the most bizarre and unholy of aberrations.

I should be conerned. That is to say, I should be more concerned. The truth is, this freakmeat tastes just damn good. So very damn good. Whatever carcass it came off, it's like no marrow I have slurped before.

Don't misunderstand — I'm still uneasy about all this. But then, sometimes, you just have to pick your battles and take some things on faith. After all, it beats the hell out of crow.

Oh, and the gravy also is excellent.

December 07, 2007

Murine tears

Well, that didn't last long.

Only days after my escape from the clutches of the nefarious Doctor Fingerer, the Woman is on my case again. Still slogging through the endless bog of detox, and I have to put up with additional grief.

Apparently (and I hastily add that the Woman's intel is highly questionable here) there's a rat in the house. Or, to hear her tell it, a whole clan of rats. She rambles on about droppings and nibble marks and her precious kitchen, she stays up all hours of the night maniacally scrubbing every surface, all the while wailing about crispmas and family coming and all the baking she has to do. Then she wheels on me, pointing her accusatory digit as if trying to channel lightning through it, and bellows some nonsense about my obligations.

First of all, and let me be clear on this point: I don't see no stinking rat. Sure, the place is a little more pungent than usual, but between the regurgitations of the Small Man, the flatulence of the Big Rodent, and that monstrosity of a tree you dragged into the house, isn't it a little presumptuous to place all the blame on some phantom vermin?

Second of all, where in my contract does it say anything about ratwork? They aren't in my bed, they aren't in my food, they aren't in my yard. What concern is it of mine if your chocolate molds get a little speckled? Hm? I mean, I'm in recovery here. Cut me some damn slack.

Finally, consider this: Maybe, just maybe, if you hadn't let me rot away in Doctor Fingerer's gulag for nearly a week, these alleged invaders might not have gotten a foothold in your precious kitchen. Maybe you left the threshold unguarded for too long this time. Ya think?

That said, I don't want to sound completely callous to your plight. So, in gratitude for your late-but-effective efforts in securing my freedom, I'll have a look around. But no promises.

November 20, 2007


I am out. Free. Back at my post.

And I must give credit where it's due: it was the Woman who sprung me. The Man helped, but clearly the Woman was the brains behind the elaborate jailbreak.

They must have bribed one of Fingerer's minions, because I saw one of them giving the Woman a lengthy and thorough tutorial on the secret workings of their various tubes and needles. And then, while the Man blabbered away with endless inane questions — a well-timed distraction — I saw the Woman quietly secure several bottles of powders and a large flask of clear liquid. Clever Woman, you've found the antidote!

I was quietly and unceremoniously whisked from my cage into a small transport box. Not the most subtle of smuggling conveyances, but I did my part and lay flat and still. We narrowly dodged disaster on the way out when Doctor Fingerer appeared and blocked our egress. But the Man opened up with a barrage of idiotic queries, and the Woman took advantage of this misdirection to sneak me out of the labs.

It has not been an easy road back. The Woman continues to administer her antidotes daily, and despite the unpleasantness of the process, I cooperate. No price is to high to rid my body of the poisons visited upon me by Doctor Fingerer. And twice daily I am injected with some manner of super-serum that makes me feel once more like the warrior I am.

All that remains now is to find and destroy the labs of Doctor Fingerer, to set free the multitude of cats imprisoned therein, to burn the facility to the ground, and to piss on the ashes.

November 13, 2007

The Catrix

What happened? Where am I?

I was... I was... wait. I was in the fortress. Wasn't I? On the ancillary cushion that verges the main corridor with the mess hall. Something wasn't right, though. Something in the pit of my stomach, something off with my legs. Head swimming. And then... then I saw the Man, coming at me with his portable pinfold — that green gated transport box, that windowed coffin of his...

Now, I'm here. Where's here?

Small, enlcosed area, though not so small as the Man's box. Cage. And I smell... evil. Dark, sinister, cruel. Here with me is a small blanket, a scattering of litter, some food — stale. And water — suspicious. Am I in prison? Solitary?

Not quite. There are other voices around me — cats. Angry, frightened, groggy, drugged. All around me: above, below, on all sides. Cats stacked stories high in rows miles long, in identical pods, many with weird tubes snaking out of them.

Tubes! My claws, there are tubes going into me! What the hell?! I am being pumped full of — what? What horrors are being forced upon me here? What twisted fate is being injected into me and my brethren in this evil place?

This cannot be the Man's doing. Despite the bizarre mysteries of his recent Bay B experiments, I know that his projects, though freakish, tend to be playful, kinetic, and noisy. Here we have quite the opposite — it is all very quiet, clinical, morbid. And the smell, I know this smell...

Fingerer. Doctor Fingerer is behind this. I didn't place it right away as I've only seen his lobby and his cold prodding-table before. I'd not been exposed to the fiendish bowels of his inner labs. But the smell I now recognize — it is the pungent taint that lingered upon Fabio when he would return, half-shaved and heavily drugged, after long absences. Is this the place they brought my brother? No wonder he wound up inert and half-mad.

Well, to hell with this place. I am getting out, just as soon as I can figure out how these tubes work. Fortunately, Fingerer's minions were less than thorough in processing my admittance — I still have my knives, tucked safely away and waiting. The next time one of them comes poking for blood, she'll get more blood than she bargained for. I only hope I cross paths with Fingerer on my way out. We'll see how he likes it when the tube's up the other orifice.

November 09, 2007

Hey now, whoa there. Whoa.

When thumbs first sprang from the Small Man's flippers, thus ushering in the clutch-and-hurl chapter of this weird new world, I was thankfully and providentially immune to his graspiness. The Woman's hair, the Rodent's ears, the Man's chest-wisps all fell easy prey to Small Man's spit-slimey grapsers, but not Shmool.

For one thing, I prudently kept my distance, having observed the perimeter about the Small Man within which one was subject not only to his pinchery, but also to his cascades of viscous upheaval. The Man and the Woman, somewhat inexplicably, choose to remain within this zone almost without fail, thus taking the brunt of his daily fusillade and spending the better part of their new lives half-soaked. Darwin at work.

Even so, every now and then the Small Man would be brought close to me, usually because I happened to be in repose upon the giant purple cushion when the Woman lugged him over for another bizarre slurp-and-burp ritual. This was tolerable and permissible, as the Small Man had his mind elsewhere and seemed to have a natural understanding that the Shmool was not to be grabbed. Again, Darwin in action.

That has changed. Yesterday, while I dreamt serenely of drunken squirrels, I suddenly became aware that somthing had me — by the face, no less. Emerging from my slumber, I realized that I was seeing the world through the pudgy little digits of Small Man's lemur-paw, now squarely affixed to my nose, fingers curling tighter under my chin, stumpy thumb pressing hard between my eyes.

For a moment, I was bewildered — where had this thing come from? And more importantly, what the hell was I going to do? One cannot bring one's fangs into play if one's mandible is clamped shut. I tried pulling back, but that was no help — Small Man was reaching over my head to grasp my face. Pulling back only drew me closer to him, thus improving the angle of his reach.

So I froze. Make like a lifeless pillow and see if he'll release me...

After a moment, his hand slipped back from my face onto the top of my head, and he started to gently stroke and scratch between my ears. I held as still as I could, eyes darting about the room, looking for an avenue of safe retreat (no luck there — the entire fortress is so littered with Small Man's equipment as to be practically unnavigable).

Carefully, slowly, almost imperceptibly, I craned my neck away from Small Man and angled my head an easy quarter turn, putting as much distance as I could between his plump pokers and my eye sockets. As he continued rubbing and kneading at the back of my head, I became aware of the voice of the Woman, laughing gently and encouraging the Small Man. “Good boy, good job, gentle, nice cat, nice kitty cat.”

No! Not nice kitty cat! Mean, tough, battle-hardened killer cat! This was wrong, all wrong!

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the rhythm of his clutching and releasing. If I could time it just right, I might be able to leap away between grasps. Steady, easy, steady...

And suddenly, the thing was gone. I chanced a quick glance over my shoulder to see the Small Man had returned to his slurping work, and taken his meat hook with him. With as much dignity as I could summon, I got up and took a couple measured steps away from the two of them, establishing a safety margin that apparently will now have to be maintained at all times. And good thing, too — for the Small Man then proceeded blurp his sustenance all over the Woman, the grisly cascade running down her side and pooling up in the warm divot where I had reclined not 5 seconds ago.

Another daring escape.

October 19, 2007

Ludicrous, I say

The leafing season has arrived, and the wrathful gales that harbinger darkness have decisively ungreened all of Shmooldom. Which is acceptable — less cover for the vermin, less foliage to obscure the maneuverings of the unburrowed. Due to the infiltration of my sanctum shmoolum by the Small Man (more on that at a later date; the drama remains unplayed, the game yet afoot) I am forced to spend more time above ground. So, so much the better that the land be laid bare. Infiltrators, keep your distance: in this low-angled light, I see every twitch in sharp relief.

As always, this blustery orange season has brought with it profound changes in the Man. Every year, right about this time, he augments his Big Box image-rituals: less we see of the pajama-clad figures thwacking and pursuing the white orb while running in circles across the great lawn; and more we see of the dark and ugly creatures of the viscera-squishing and gore-spritzing variety.

The Woman, as usual, will have nothing to do with this. She and Small Man take in their surgical dramaturgy in the other room.

Most often, the Man's macabre entertainments involve the befanged and beclawed nibbling on the soft and the stupid. Naturally, I approve, though I don't quite see how this provides any kind of escape from the realities of the world just beyond the fortress door. But every so often, the Man conjures up a true masterpiece on the Big Box — a heroic epic that makes one truly appreciate the power of the theatric arts. These are rare, but oh so welcome.

But then, inevitably, along comes some outrageous pile of propagandistic rubbish that so offends one's sensibilities as to make one want to claw the face off the Big Box itself. I mean, the unmitigated gall of the special interests behind this crap! Who would believe such nonsense?! It is hardly entertainment — rather, a transparently obvious and gratuitous attempt to instill paranoia and panic by invoking the spectre of an empty threat, a chimerical crisis, a phantom menace (to coin a term).

And then, adding insult to injury, not one cat appears in the whole damned travesty.

Idiotic. Preposterous. Ludicrous. Who does this Hatchcock think he is?

September 30, 2007


************** SITU BRIEF ***************
************* AGENT SHMOOL **************
************* DEFCON:GREEN **************
*********** COMM STATUS:DARK ************
*********** DISPATCH FOLLOWS ************
************* DISPATCH ENDS**************

August 22, 2007

Hammish boy

The situation surrounding this Small Man does not improve. Indeed, the fogs of mystery thicken and darken, the odors intensify, the portents grow ever more sinister.

For one thing, he's become suddenly quite grabby. Seemingly overnight, his stubby metacarpals inexplicably sprouted digiti squirmi which now flail about, grasping indiscriminately at anything within his ominously increased range. Naturally, I have made a point of keeping out of that circle of certain grasp, and have noted the grisly fate of others not so prudent. Most notably, I have witnessed — with smug appreciation, I admit — the Man shrieking in agony as his chest hairs fall into the clutches of his own miniaturized clone. That's right — reap the whirlwind, you bastard.

Also of concern: he poops disturbingly large for a Small Man. Large, loud, and long. Bowelly, he most certainly outmoves his weight class. And I'm not the only one put off by this turn of events — far from it. Both the Man and the Woman recoil in horror at the magnitude of his fundamental force. And the Rodent, himself no stranger to foul repugnance, just leaves the room.

And then there's the really unnerving turn: The Small Man's grunty utterances have changed from the caprine to the porcine, his goatish bawls and brays mutating into the snorts and squeals of the Man-Swine, the dreaded gouronithrope, the fabled werepig. Honk! Grunt! Snort-snort-snort-wheee-wheee-wheeeeee!

I don't know if the Man intended that his creation embody all the virtues of the barnyard, but oh how he must now be dreading the day when Small Man inherits the cockerel's voice and the heifer's bowels. For that will truly be the day his chickens come home to roost.

July 17, 2007

Now I know why they're called sucklings

I now live, if that is what I may call it, under the rule of an occupation force of one.

The Small Man, now bulging and engorged and layered in folded rolls of blubber, rules this place with a squishy fist.

The Woman never leaves the fortress. Neither the Man. They huddle ceaselessly about the Small Man and marvel at the river of regurgitance that issues from his gills, and the tempest of flatulence blasting from his posterior. They change and augment his swaddles on the hour (a woefully futile exercise). They jump at his every chirp; they answer his every bray.

They read and reread and rereread him tales from his brightly-hued compendia — tales of mice. Of dogs. They sing him ridiculous songs of jibberish and praise.

I am beset by a cavalcade of granhamas, bearing gifts and tribute.

The distribution of pellets is continuously postponed by his warbling filibusters; door service is practically nonexistent.

Is this what life around here is going to be, then? Is this the new future of Shmooldom?

If Fabio were still here, if Fabio could see this, he would...

Well, he would just barf.

June 22, 2007

Everything must go

I believe the Man has hit the first major snag in his long and weird cloning scheme.

No one is buying the Small Man.

It's not for lack of interested customers: Many, many have come to observe the product of the Man's elaborate Bay B experiments. They come every day. They come, and they regard the Small Man with admiration. They heft him, sniff him, bounce him about to assess his weight and durability. They photograph his asymmetrical, bloated countenance for posterity. They even envelop him in capes and cloaks of varying colors, presumably to better gauge his true pigment and pallor.

Some — Laddle, Dark Mistress of the Hellhounds, for one — have even returned multiple times to re-examine and re-bounce the Small Man. Comparison shoppers, I expect.

And yet, no buyers. So far as I can tell, not even any bids.

I am not sure if the Man is asking too high a price for his creation, or if there is some inherent flaw in the product itself. But judging by the amount of wobbling, sputtering, and leakage, I'd wager the Small Man is not the world's finest example of craftsmanship.

And to be honest, I cannot for the life of me imagine what the market is for flatulent clones of pasty inept drunkards. But if it will move things along and put this whole ordeal behind us, I'll make the following offer: Anyone who deals with me directly can have the Small Man for half price. I'll even throw in an impressively large and solid Rodent gratis.

Hurry. Supplies are limited.

June 02, 2007

What manner of monkey is this?

I should have known it was too good to last.

For four days, I had the fortress entirely unto myself. No Man, no Woman. No Rodent. No strange experiments in the night or clanky assemblings of bizarre pseudoscientific mechanisms intruding upon the easy calm of my solitude.

The couch, the whole of it, was mine. The pellet bowl eternally full. Everything in the universe was, at last, right.

And then, and then.

The Woman returned, looking badly beaten and leaning pathetically upon a rolling scaffold for support, her gait uneven, her eyes sunken. She was followed closely by the Man, teetering and exhausted, and carrying in his arms some... thing.

At first I watched the door for signs of the Rodent — surely he would be close upon their heels (in fact, he did not return until later that evening, escorted by the Melodious Freckled Lady and My Doorman). But my attention was soon diverted to the twist, the x factor, the elephant in the room. The thing.

It was small. Tightly bundled, yet still squirmy. Definitely alive. I mounted the couch for closer inspection. Smelly. A somewhat medicinal scent, with strange conflicting overtones of both hygienic cleanliness and exremental contamination. And it was vocal — mewling and squawking and hiccing and burping in a manner not unlike the Rodent in his heyday.

Could this monkey-thing be the product of the Man's Bay B experiments?

And then I moved in slightly closer, and suddenly it reached out with one of its sickly-pale digits and tugged at its swaddles, and I saw, oh help me, I saw its face.

No no no no no.

The Man has cloned himself.

Bast and Sekhmet preserve us from stinky evil!

May 26, 2007

Now I've seen it all

The Man is following the Woman around with a stopwatch. He is apparently timing her burps. He appears to be recording this data for posterity. He is also speaking directly to her abdominal bulb with a whole new level of urgency, fervor, and ebullience.

I think she's had enough of this, because she looks about ready to kill him. I've also noticed some packed bags have been placed by the door.

May 03, 2007

New life

It has come to my attention (through one of my more reliable sources) that one of the faithful, a certain Ming Ming, has bestowed upon one of her progeny the most hallowed nomen honorificus. A young warrior, new upon the earth but soon and surely destined for great things, now carries the appellation Shmool.

I am told my namesake is not only feisty and well-traveled (ah, to be young and thirsty for adventure), but like me, also black and lacking a functional tail. To which I say: Ostentatious tails are for the weak and the vain; their uncontrolled twitching only betrays the minds of their possessors. A true warrior achieves balance through strength, musculature, and conditioning, not some extraneous pendulating appendage.

I am truly touched by this honor, and give my blessing to the whole of DoubleMing's brood. May they live long and well, and exalt this young Shmool Augustus to the glories his name portends.

And tremble, ye crows and marmots and assorted vermin, at the prospect of a world with TWO Shmools! Tremble and swoon!

On the subject of new life, I must also report that the Woman's bulging rotunda now pulsates and contorts of its own accord. Something, something not of this world, moves within. The clouds gather and the nightmare darkens: It is alive!

April 12, 2007


Three weeks.

It has now been three weeks since my brother went missing. I have doubled over all my regular patrol routes, pulled extended recons and perimeter sweeps, even conducted thorough forensic investigations of all his usual cushions and shrubs and crannies. My brother, Fabio, is simply gone.

It seems like I should be sharpening my claws and going after the bastards that did this. But the trail is cold, and to tell the truth, I have no suspects. Strange as it may sound, Fabio had no enemies. Not a one. The crows never bothered him, the Rodent adored him, and for all I know, given their uncanny resemblance, that mask-wearing outfit of giant, fingered cats might have made him an honorary member of their horde.

Which possibly explains his blithe, careless demeanor. As I recall, he never really got that rattled by last year's Cani-Corvine Wars, nor even by the Apocalypse of the previous summer. Panic was not much in his blood, at least not since the early days, when he was constantly falling out of third-story windows, getting stranded in trees, and generally getting himself stuck anywhere he could stick. Then, soon after Year One, he began to bloat, and his girth conspired with gravity to settle him down and keep his stupidity in check. Nature's a funny thing.

It wasn't long after that, after his enplumpment effectively ended his era of misadventure, that he took up the arts. First came the art of floral arrangement, in which he carefully selected petals and leaves from outside and brought them in, arranging them ever-so-precisely upon the floor into meticulous patterns, trails, and glyphs. Soon also came the singing — he would warble even with a mouthful of petals, then break into full aria as his masterwork was completed. Many a summer night was punctuated by his trill-and-chirp as he worked tirelessly on his art, and many a morning by the stunned gasps of the Man and the Woman as they beheld his night's industry, strewn throughout the fortress.

In close quarters and good light, he never fully lost his killer instinct. More than once, I would move stealthily and obliquely in for the kill on an exposed rat, crouched and coiled and silent, only to have Fabio waddle right up and just chomp the target without ceremony or fanfare. What he lacked in subtlety he made up in cheek, and for a while the population of hesitant vermin suffered greatly for it.

In the end, though, he was all belly. He eventually left the art behind, and the singing, and the killing, and the mischief, and devoted himself to repose. He pursued only sunshine and open laps, worked only at grooming — and not only his grooming, but mine, the Rodent's, the Man's, the floor's. He rarely ventured far, and even enlisted the services of a personal doorman to expedite his comings and goings.

And he seemed, even in that last week, to be happy about it all. Even when we were crated and hauled before Dr. Fingerer to be prodded and squeezed, he was, I remember, purring the whole time. To him, all this poking and manipulation was just another in a long series of belly rubs.

Without him, the fortress does seem too empty, the corridors too broad, the available cushions too numerous. The Rodent seems to want to spend more time near me, seems to seek in me something he once found in my brother. And, truth be told, I am finding myself more tolerant in that regard, finding stores of patience that weren't there before — perhaps a last bequeathal from my late littermate. I even allowed the Man to give me a belly rub today.

And I am giving serious thought to hiring a doorman. As it happens, I know one that comes with very good references.

March 30, 2007

Oh brother

30.04.95 – 29.03.07
Fine artist · Tolerable singer
Pathetic soldier · Loyal groomer
Reliable comic relief · Magnificent glutton
And the plumpest of cushions to life's many barbs

Take heed, ye vermin of the afterlife: He who bothers this one shall answer to me.

March 29, 2007

Whither Fabio?

Fabio is not here. And not only is he not here, I have a very dark suspicion that he is not anywhere.

It was precisely 9 days ago that the events which follow were put into motion. Without warning, my brother and I were both crated up by the Man and the Woman and loaded into the cargo hold of their stink-belching transport. I braced for the worst — no doubt we were finally being carted off to the mysterious and sinister Bay B, the secret location of the Man's twisted experiments. As it turned out, however, we were actually taken for an audience with the nefarious Dr. Fingerer. And there, indeed, we were fingered, and prodded, poked and squeezed and disrespected. Then once again we were crated and shuttled, and released back into the familiar surroundings of our fortress.

What, exactly, had been done to us? Aside from a few tender areas, I felt more or less normal. I kept a close eye on Fabio, watching for signs of aberrant behavior (aberrant beyond his norm, anyway). It seemed unlikely we had been unwittingly subjected to anything more than an invasive and undignified inspection. After all, at no point in the ordeal had Fabio and I actually been separated. Or had we? Looking back now, I admit that I can't recall with absolute certainty.

Nevertheless, back we were on our own turf, and back we stayed. That is, back I stayed. Over the next few days, Fabio's behavior began to... shift somewhat. They had him back on that slurry-feed of his, but he wasn't touching it, nor was he attempting to pilfer my pellets, nor even those of the Rodent. Four days later, he was re-crated by the Man and hefted out the front door, once again into the shuttle. And that was the last time I saw him.

Perhaps he had been taken away to this Bay B place, but my instincts, somehow, told me otherwise. For one thing, the Man's demeanor began to change — indeed, the atmosphere of the entire fortress became decidedly more somber. Each day, the Man came quietly through the door, smelling of Dr. Fingerer's labs, faint traces of Fabio on his hands. Then I caught the same scent on the Woman. And then even on the Melodious Freckled Lady. Fabio's Doorman returned faithfully to his post, but sat there looking somewhat superfluous, with no master to serve.

It was just this morning, 5 days after Fabio's disappearance, that the Man's beep-talk device went off, and I saw his eyes go hollow as he received transmissions from some distant place. He transmitted his own message, by the tone of his voice I would say it was to the Woman, and then leveled his eyes on me. I had not seen such emptiness in his gaze before, and one thing was immediately clear: wherever he was off to, it had nothing to do with this Bay B of his, and indeed, he did not go willingly. He muttered some words to me, only one of which I recognized: Fabio. And then he was gone.

He was not long gone when the Woman arrived, far ahead of her usual schedule and also looking depleted. She spoke soft words at both me and the Rodent, then waited and watched the door. The Man returned an hour later, carrying an empty crate, and Fabio's collar and badge. He stood with the Woman in kitchen in silence for a long time, then brought me Fabio's collar, which he let me examine. Then he carried me around the house with an unusually firm hold, saying nothing, merely carrying me, room to room, outside and then back in, in silence.

And this time, I let him.

February 22, 2007

Get me out of this madhouse

This may very well be my last dispatch for some time, as I'm afraid the situation around here has taken a disturbing turn from the weird to the downright sinister. I shall endeavor to continue filing regular updates, but things have now deteriorated to the point that I may need to go underground at any moment. I'll report the facts as best I understand them...

This much I know for sure: the Man is behind everything. It is all his doing. At this point, the bizarre recent behavior of Fabio and the Rodent are, at best, tertiary concerns — most likely corollary effects of the general madness that has swept this house.

The Woman continues to swell. Despite her obvious discomfort and ludicrous proportionment, the Man seems heartily pleased with this. He caresses her abdominal rotunda and speaks into it in a creepy singsong intonation. I do not understand what manner of experiment the Man is performing on the Woman, but it clearly grows nearer and nearer to some catastrophic culmination.

Of course, I have known of the Man's strange laboratorial tendancies for some time. For many years, I have witnessed his strange forays into experimental chemistry — the vials and beakers and test tubes; the bottles of caustic, multi-hued chemicals that he would mix and shake, pour and consume. On several occasions he has hosted symposia at which the illuminati gathered here in the fortress to sample his potions — and then teetered off in a glassy-eyed haze, staggering back into the world under the influence of his strange “ginatonic” trance.

But this new brand of dark science the Man now practices is something quite different. Most notably, he has been obsessively collecting — and literally filling the fortress with — all manner of strange and mysterious equipment. For weeks now, new apparatus have been arriving on a daily basis — huge, unwieldy crates containing massive mechanical horrors that the Man noisily assembles with a feverish, almost violent passion. I list here but a few of the more disturbing contraptions:
  1. A gigantic black cage, an imposing monolith of a prison whose dimensions could accommodate any number of horrors — but what? Possibly even more unsettling is the fact that this cage has padded walls.

  2. A fiendish experimental device consisting of a stress-chair into which the subject is obviously strapped via a web of unbreakable restraints. This chair is then mounted to a rigid A-frame upon a mechanical pendulum that swings maddeningly back and forth in perpetuity while playing a sequence of delirium-inducing chimes over and over again. I do not know what speeds this centrifugal chair is capable of achieving, but one imagines that at maximum power it might squash, if not liquify, its unfortunate subject.

  3. A large, rectangular “containment pen” into which a subject may be placed for extended observation. Unlike the big black cage, this struture has meshy translucent walls which allow any number of observers to simultaneously cast their sinister stares upon the contained entity. The Man has already tested this holding cell by placing the Rodent in it — and I have rarely seen that poor hound more horrified.

  4. A tall, plastic chair into which the subject again may be strapped and tightly secured, and then force-fed any manner of experimental pastes and potions and goos. A detachable panel housing a number of surreal spinning and beeping gadgets suggests that this chair may also be used for twisted psychological experiments.

Put together, these and many other new devices have effectively altered my fortress from a place of comfort and refuge into a sinister dungeon of horrors. And there is still more to report:

The man is collecting biological samples. Whenever Fabio (lazy moron that he is) poops in the house, the Man quickly collects the offal and whisks it off to some unseen facility. Also, I have witnessed the Man, when taking the Rodent on one of his tethered excursions, actually collecting fresh Rodent dung in a small black lab-pouch and sealing it like so much forensic evidence.

Needless to say, I continue to excrete in my undisclosed location. In fact, I've started taking the precautionary measures of varying my timetable and burying my leavings a little deeper than normal. One cannot be too careful.

Where the Man takes these specimens remains a mystery, but I do know there is more going on here than what I see before me. The Woman's belly, the lab equipment, the bio-samples... all of this is just the loose end of a very twisted ball of twine. There is a grander experiment, shrouded in mystery, going on behind closed doors. And I know, if nothing else, the codename of this secret installation:

The Man calls it Bay B. I don't know what happened to Bay A, or how many more hidden labs the Man has set up, but clearly Bay B is the one housing his main project. And judging by the look in his eyes and the fevered pitch his “preparations” are taking, the Bay B Experiment must be nearing completion.

Accordingly, I have started scouting the neighborhood for auxiliary command centers and defensible positions on which to bivouac, if necessary. I am prepared to put some serious distance between myself and this place if and when it comes to it. You won't find this Shmool stuffed in a jar or strapped to a gurney or sealed in a padded cell. The Laws of Nature may be mutable around here, but the Law of the Jungle remains resolute, and when the mad scientist unleashes his monstrosity upon the world, I shall take my chances with the wilderness...

January 29, 2007

I am surrounded by lunatics

The sun has returned, its warmth once again bathing the Shmoollands in the soothing light of emergent living renewal... and yet, all the world is coming unhinged.

First, there's the Rodent, who has grown so long that I wonder if he might actually be nearing a mitosis-like separation into two distinct entities. For one thing, his rear half seems no longer aware of what his front half is doing. Many times now, I've seen him lay down to slobber upon his furry spit-squeakers, yet his back legs remain standing. He'll even go to sleep like that. Like a horse. For hours.

Conversely, I've also witnessed him arising from a long nap and setting forth with his back legs trailing limply behind, still asleep, like some ludicrous miniature walrus. And on several occasions I've noted that, when at a full run, his back end will actually pull to the left and begin to outpace and pass his front half, such that he is practically running sideways. I can only imagine what will happen the day his ass beats his face to the food dish.

Then there's Fabio, my brother, my poor feeble-minded brother... his bulb is finally down to its last filament, I fear. He has started singing when he poops. Not warbling, not chittering, not meowing casually to himself, but SINGING. Really belting it out, too. From down deep. For all to enjoy.

This scaterwauling of his reverberates throughout the fortress and the neighborhood in general. The Man, the Woman, the Rodent... we all hear it, and we all know exactly what's transpiring in the bushes out front. We avoid eye contact in a vain attempt to pretend it isn't happening, but we're all thinking the same thing, and our uncomfortable silence is punctuated only by the operatic MWOOOOOOOOWs from outside.

For her part, Woman continues to billow and bulge — containment of this bizarre abdominal rotundity might be possible, if only she would stop eating everything in sight. In goes the food, out goes the belly, and there seems to be no end to it. I've started eyeing the portals, and have begun my calculations on how much longer before she actually blocks my egress from the sleeping chamber. I will have just that long to work out my contingency plans.

And then there's the Man. Here's the real winner. First, he's hearing voices coming out of his typewriter. Pretty soon, he's having regular-as-clockwork (and completely one-sided) conversations with these phantom "colleagues" of his. “Meetings” he calls them. Yeah right, buddy. Even the Rodent finds this behavior disturbing.

But nothing — nothing — could prepare us for what came next:

Now he's talking to the Woman's belly. Speaking directly into her abdomen. The Woman doesn't seem to mind this, though it's entirely possible she's merely frozen in shock and horror at the sight of the Man addressing her rotunda in overly familiar tones.

Where all this leads next is beyond me, but I shudder to think how quickly everything deteriorated from tranquility into madness around here. What I wouldn't give for the smallest dose of sanity. Or, if nothing else, consistency.

I mean, right now I actually miss the damned crows.

January 11, 2007


Snow. It is white as the tufts that sprawl across the great expanse of my brother's underside out there today. The sun is abnormally bright, illuminating the cold, crunch-dusted ground with a refulgence worthy of Armageddon's own flash-bang. In short, it is no kind of day for a black master of shadows to be out and about.

Today, then, I conduct a thorough inspection of the fortress. After all, the last two weeks have seen a lot of traffic coming through — not one, but two Gran-hamas, both of whom set up camp in my bunker. The glitter-tree and its traditional festoonery have come and gone, the Indulgent Festival of Paper now fully concluded.

It is, I am pleased to report, a little easier to get around in here now: more floor space, considerably less clutter, severe reduction in traffic going up and down the bunker's eggressional stairpoint. Come to think of it, it's actually a little too easy to get around. The clutter-reduction process has proved exceedingly effective, and there's something... empty about the place.

My first concern is that this portends another large-scale move — one of those massive “bug-out” redeployments that the Man seems to execute every year or so. Always a time of tremendous chaos and great misery. New locations to scout, new positions to fortify, new neighborhoods to conquer and subjugate. Every time, it's like starting from scratch, and I'm getting too old for that crap.

But perhaps not. Consider:
  1. There has been a marked drop in relocations of this kind ever since the Woman took command.
  2. Historically, full-scale redeployments have been, without exception, preceded by a tremendous increase in clutter — boxes and crates and the like — and never by a wholesale reduction in inventory such as we have here.
  3. As yet there has been no sign of the much-feared miniature coffins into which Fabio and I are unceremoniously stuffed prior to transport — either to a new location, or for a trip to the nefarious Dr. Fingerer.
  4. The Man and the Woman seem... how shall I put this? Happy. Pleased with themselves, even. This is not a mental state that accompanies times of great confusion and upheaval.
So. I sharpen my investigation, and I hit upon a crucial fact: with the exception of the removal of the Shmooltide festoonery, this emptying of space has not been fortress-wide. It has, in fact, been highly localized. The Man has been systematically emptying the main sleep chamber. Boxes and shelves and whole piles of bric-a-brac have been hauled away — even the Big Luminous Box and the chambered altar from which it lorded over the room have been cast out.

Half of the sleep chamber has now been effectively cleared, giving the whole South Wing of the fortress something of a lopsided, uneven feel. The only possible explanation is that the Man has been clearing the way for something. New equipment? Is it too much to hope that he will finally be installing a state-of-the-art Listening Station and Defensive Command Center, complete with RADAR and AWACS (Rodent And Dog Aggressor Repulsion and Advanced Warning Anti-Crow System)? He never seemed to comprehend those schematics I drew up so many years ago — perhaps he finally gave that low-watt light bulb he calls an intellect the last half-twist it needed to complete the circuit.

Then again, there is another factor to consider. It seems like very long odds, but then I've learned not to invest much trust in coincidence. The Woman, it seems, has been... well, ballooning, to put it bluntly. Bulging, inflating, growing abdominally rotund. She doesn't seem concerned about this — on the contrary, as I pointed out, she seems rather pleased. So now I have to wonder: is the Man clearing space simply to accommodate the Woman's dimensions? And if so, for crying out loud, just how big is she going to get?

No, it simply cannot be. If the Woman were expected to grow into proportions that would fill the great empty space of the sleep chamber, why, that would be nothing short of ludicrous. Even Fabio would be put to shame. No, it has to be the Command Center. In fact, I'd better doublecheck my schematics and make sure they include Fenceline Squirrel Inhibitors. Because those cheeky bastards have become particularly impudent this year.

December 30, 2006

Illumination rumination

The barrage of bluster and sog seems to have passed for the moment, and we have here a fine and bright afternoon to enjoy, to walk leisurely in the open with the sun on our fur, to survey in clear and revealing light the situation on the ground.

The Man has spent most of his time in the mooring dock with his gurgling machinery, pumping out the boggish slurp that has accumulated there. This requires the opening of the massive blast door between the docking area and the garagery — frontally exposing the bunker keep to the outside world, but also offering me an excellent (and somewhat theatrical) point of egress. One day I must discover and master the controlling mechanism of this loud and rumbling blast door. One must not underestimate the potential impact of the occasional sudden and dramatic entrance. I know the squirrels would void their cheeks in utter shock.

The Woman has loaded her transport with the gear and accoutrements of the one called Gran-hama. This Gran-hama arrived on the heels of last week's great storm, and took shelter in my bunker. She was a pleasant and attentive guest, though I fear she credits Fabio with more intelligence than his blubber-couched countenance truly conveys. Her annual departure following the Indulgent Festival of Paper usually portends the removal of the great tree and the onset of the long dark soak of a new year. We shall see how that plays out.

Both Fabio and the Rodent have spent the day in repose, seeking the transient localizations of light and warmth and following them as they migrate west-to-east along the floors and cushions of the fortress. Understandable, though short-sighted; why satisfy oneself with four square feet of ephemeral internal sunlight when the whole outside world is bathed in it? This is a day for exploration and activity, for stretching the limbs and filling the lungs and staving off atrophy (Fabio, I'm looking at you).

It is also a day for heightenend watchfulness, for cats and gran-hamas are not the only creatures that emerge from their holes to greet such warmth. There is no telling what menagerie of vermin and crittery might also be drawn out into the bright balm, so it behooves the vigilant to resist the natural impulse to let indulgence lull us off our guard.

Oop — I hear the blast door closing. Best get back and sweep the garagery for marmots. My work is never done.

December 20, 2006

Shmooltide greetings

Once again, the neighborhood is lit and tinseled in tribute to the Shmool that watches over it. And in this cold and wet season, I have delivered, if nothing else, peace. There have been no masked-fingercat sightings in over a year; the crows have resumed a respectful posture; Fabio has taken his business back outside where it belongs. All in all, I have done good work here.

Which perhaps explains why the sinister Wind-Demon Gustus Tempestuo chose my protectorate as the object of his blustery ire last week. Close on the heels of a good soaking at the slimy hands of his bastard cousin, Satura Sogg, Gustus came barging in upon the placiditude of our Shmooltide, as unexpected and unwelcome as the cold thermometer of Dr. Fingerer.

The huffery and puffery of this blowgod was colossal. His flatulence ripped through my streets, turning gravity itself on its ear and thrashing mercilessly upon my stronghold. The great gate groaned and bulged painfully against the onslaught; the foundations wobbled nervously; the trees bowed in submissive supplication. Fabio passed out.

But not I. No indeed, I left the comparative safety of my fortress behind and strode unflinchingly out into the yard to greet the Demon. I stood boldly in open ground, squared my chest against the behemoth, and held my head high in defiant challenge.

The Man soon came stumbling out into the maelstrom, bent and unsteady, shielding his face and yelling unintelligibles at me. He scooped me up into his tattered overcloak and hauled me back into the shelter of my fortress. And the Demon smiled, loudly kicking the door shut behind us in a rude display of insolence.

I waited, allowed the Man to decloak and unshoe. Then I went back out, letting the tumultuous din carry away his vain protests. And I resumed my place astride the Demon's path, and bellowed my challenge:


By dawn, the Demon had fallen away. And tried and tested though we were, my domain stood whole, blasted but uninjured. And tranquility fell once again upon my land, my gift to the faithful and the worthy.

I hear that several neighboring regions did not fare so well. The crows (now several feathers shy of modesty) talk of darkness sweeping across great swaths of the metropolis, of mighty trees fallen and fortresses compromised.

I guess the cats who protect those ravaged lands just don't have what it takes. Because sometimes blood-honed claws and hardened fangs aren't enough. Some enemies can't be slashed, nor chomped, nor even bluffed. Sometimes it takes something more.

Sometimes it takes nothing less than a cast-iron colon.

Stille fidelis, adeste tanenbaum, nacht burlives humbug in excelsis noel...

December 13, 2006

Them blankets is mine

There appears to be some misapprehension around here as to the precise chain-of-command regarding the assignment of sleeping quarters. Let me just clarify.

The Rodent, I concede, has the right-of-way on the Primary Orthogonal Cushion when said cushion is occupied by the Man and Woman during the night shift. I claim access to this central high ground as my functional CIC during daylight operations, but once the fortress stands down for hibernation, I fully understand the need for the Rodent to bunk with the humans. After all, from what I've seen of his cross-bar positioning between them, it would appear he serves some function as a kind of lumbar pillow.

Therefore, it follows that the pillowy satellite outposts fall under my jurisdiction after hours. And that includes the rounded cushion-crater filled with blanketry lying just east of the P.O.C. The Rodent has made a habit of using this station as an auxiliary bunk during the night — presumably as a fallback position for the Man's gassier evenings. And, it does happen to occupy the same location once reserved for the Rodent's detention cage (the removal of which was a move of questionable wisdom which will not be debated here). So old habits die hard, I am sure.

Nevertheless, I am hereby exercising my right as senior officer to commandeer these blankets and the cushion thereunder as my personal sleeping quarters. I have hacked up my personal signature thereupon as confirmation of the transfer of ownership. The Rodent is expected yield honorably.

Also, will someone please get the Rodent's saliva-soaked toys out of there? I mean, no one wants to sleep with all that gross, and I need the space for my hairballs.

November 29, 2006

I would not do that


The big freeze is upon us, and our suffering has been great. Nevertheless, those of us hardened by the rigors of our Northern deployment have what it takes to just bite the bullet and get out there and get it done, even if “it” is nothing more than a quick-and-dirty excretional expedition.

Most of us, that is.

Fabio, alas, being the bloated oaf that he is, cannot seem to muster the resolve to even make the 30-foot round trip to the icy latrine. Which is ironic, as Fabio resembles nothing so much as an overfed arctic seal pup.

Instead, my idiot brother has started — inadvisably, in my opinion — taking care of his business indoors, despite a 10-year-old bilateral treaty banning such practices. He thinks he's being clever about it, leaving his little marble-sized creations in a remote, low-traffic hallway corner like some gargantuan phantom rabbit.

The Woman, the Man, and even Fabio's Doorman have all had the pleasure of dealing with these keister eggs — and if Fabio thinks these three aren't going to get together and compare notes sooner or later, he's gambling on very long odds. What's more, if he thinks they won't piece together who's behind these infractions in about three seconds, then his naivety is exceeded only by his sloth.

Because one, I recognize and honor the 1996 Excretionary Treaty; two, I would never befoul my own fortress; and three, if I decided it was time to poop indoors, you wouldn't find it tucked away in a dark corner. You'd find it in your lap, with a bow on top and a signed card.

October 31, 2006

The people are not what they seem

What kind of bizarre nightmare is this?

First, I return from my patrols to find my fortress festooned with all manner of bizarre absurdities: owls, blackbirds, red curtains, oversized playing cards, and sheets of clear plastic. The Woman lays out a freakish smorgasbord of cherry pies and symmetrically arranged stacks of donuts, and the Man morbidly places at the head of the table a gravestone bearing a single and unfamiliar name: Laura Palmer. Who?!

Then the whole place suddenly becomes bathed in an eerie, dim red light, and strains of unholy brooding music swell up out of nowhere. And finally, to my horror, they arrive: a coterie of grotesques from some insane and psychotic land called “Twimpeegs” — who they are or why they were invited into my lair is totally beyond me.

But they are a freakish lot: one-eyed cheerleaders and weirdly bewigged knaves; black-clothed mysteriosos encrusted in coffee beans; prim factotums toting portable recording instruments; bloodied forensic scientists and pie-diner nymphs who look suspiciously like “The People In The Walls” I knew so many years ago; even a folksy law officer, scentily reminiscent of Fabio's Doorman, who does nothing to subdue this menagerie. And as a final twist on this mindbending scene, the Rodent himself suddenly appears encased in a woody, leafed vessel that makes him look like some kind of... log.

This unearthly assemblage mingles and murmurs well into the night before dispersing back to this “Twimpeegs” from whence it came. Good riddance, weirdos. Don't let the one-eyed jack slap your ass on the way out.

As for me, I mainly keep my eyes on those silent, unflinching birds. A monstrous black owl to my left; a sinister raven to my right. Allies? Adversaries? Or mere corpses frozen in rigor mortis? I give myself a good chomp on the haunch to be certain this isn't some unfortunate dream. But no — come morning, the scent of cherries and coffee still lingers in the air, and the winged undead still stand their disturbing statuesque vigil.

This was all three nights ago.

Tonight, the world appears to be no closer to a resumption of the sane stability we once took for granted. Tonight, the army of little people is loose upon the land. In their impish regalia they stalk the streets and demand their nougaty tribute.

Tonight, I stay in and try to sleep off this nightmare.

October 29, 2006

I do not recognize your specious government programs

Do I look like an idiot?

The Man certainly seems to credit me with no more sense than a hatchling. Either that, or he has me confused with my lesser fraternal counterpart, whose limited stores of wit are now so securely encased in blubber that I wager they'll make a beautifully preserved specimen for feliopologists to noodle over five centuries from now. Chilling thought, that our generation may be represented before posterity by our thickest fellows.

But I digress. The point being, the Man has unilaterally and without cause altered the feeding schedule. To be precise, he has chosen to delay the dispersal of pellets by an audacious 60 minutes. Needless to say, this not only disrupts my carefully structured evening rounds and cuts dangerously into critical patrol time, it also leaves me undernourished and in less-than-optimum fettle at precisely the time that the vermin emerge from their trenches and set about their nightly encroachments.

To the Man I have expressed my displeasure at this treacherous delay in no uncertain terms. His explanation, weakly rehearsed and poorly regurgitated, invokes some niggling temporal policy involving the taxation of daylight. Oh, please. Do not involve me in your top-heavy bureaucracy, you petty commissar!

This “daylight savings” program smacks of shoddy science, if you ask me. As if we could tithe away a portion of our summers to be preserved for the darker, colder months. Ha! Where were these precious reserves last January, when half my territory was swept away by the icy torrents? I tell you, either these “daylight savings” are pure fabrication, or, on the off chance that they do in fact exist, are being skimmed and funneled off to special interests.

So take your extra hour of daylight and stick it where the sun don't shine. I expect my dinner at 6 o'clock sharp, and that's 6 o'clock Shmooltime.

October 10, 2006

The big bad uglies are back

The season of the crunchy brown leaf is upon us. I recognize this not only because everywhere I go I trod upon foliage that is both brown and crunchy, nor because of the hysteria of chittery squirrelling that's going on in my yard right now. No indeed — the truest and surest indicator of this season's annual manifestation is the ritualistic spectacle of putrescence that issues forth from the Big Box.

The imagery is as familiar as it is nauseating: slimy bug-people and improbable lumbering lizardoids; toothy winged rats and hairy boogermen; rusty-implement-wielding misanthropes and unkempt practitioners of questionable science. And the requisite goo and ooze and spurty gurgling nastiness that always follow them.

This is the Man's doing. (If not, then he is surely the willing catalyst.) Night after night, he soaks up these unpleasant transmissions, and always with increasing relish, until ultimately the army of little people come to our door in their macabre disguises and demand restitution. It is a long and tiresome and wholly incomprehensible season.

Improbably, the Woman buys into this nonsense. She who fears even the most insignificant of leggy bugs somehow possesses the constitution to ride along on this grisly caravan of gore. She even seems to slip into a mild psychosis of her own, in which she festoons my fortress with a small army of miniature gourds.

Trying times.

I did, however, discern a barrage of images within the Big Box the other night that actually commanded my fascination. It was a documentary of stupid people (nothing new there) who found themselves menaced by strange, gargantuan hairless mole-rats with the ability to take human form. These oversized vampiric vermin, even as they chomped and squished their way through the inept human population, were beseiged by an army of righteous warrior cats, led by the champion law-enforcer Clovis. And for all their mysterious powers, these unearthly mole-creatures were rightly terrified of the formidable force that had gathered to dispense justice.

It was a glorious battle and a moving finale, as scores of my compatriots leapt upon the scaly forms of these rat-demons and slashed them to pulpy lumps. I don't believe any of the human participants survived the melee, except perhaps the one young woman Clovis had put under his personal protection.

There's a lesson in there. Let us hope the Man has been keeping notes.

September 28, 2006

Fabrications of my softness are immaterial

Curse the loose-lipped rumormongers among us, the vile, useless, jobless hangers-on who timidly poke and prod the surface of my existence in a pitiful attempt to induce the tiniest of ripples upon the empty oceans of their own meaningless lives.

I have learned that the Man, bored, aimless, pointless loaf that he has become, has taken to amusing himself and others by spreading rumors and reports that I have suddenly turned soft. That I have stopped patrolling. That I do nothing but sleep all day. That I allow humans to rub my belly and dogs to lick my head. That I'm plumping up into a squishy, passive, inert lump. In short, that I'm turning into Fabio.

Well, let me just address this clearly and directly, too all vermin in earshot: Be warned — rumors of my retirement have been greatly, dangerously, exaggerated.

Purely circumstantial evidence.I neither dodge nor deny the facts in this matter — it is true that I have been on a... sabbatical, of sorts. I have permitted myself the indulgence of leisure. I may devote a larger share of my day to the warm and sunny spots within my fortress. And yes, perhaps my physique is not all that it was at the height of my glory. I will even admit that, for the first time in my long and seasoned history, I have indulged in the undignified yet strangely gratifying practice of purring.

But be not deceived by appearances. And poke not the slumbering beast, lest ye be breakfast.

And don't think I can't see all you squirrels running rampant in the back yard, or hear you uninvited neighborhood cats taking liberties out on the front steps. Trust me, you do so only by the grace of my tolerance and forbearance. And know also that when the bell sounds, you best gather up your nuts and get your cheeky tails back to class, because recess will be over.

Now leave me alone and let me sleep.

September 05, 2006

Chatter and traffic

Attention all paws: Effective immediately, I'm placing the area on Def-Sec Alert, Condition Warble.

There has been a notable increase in fenceline chatter and powerline squawks for several days now — this amplified communications throughput is chaotic but general, and may be indicative of large-scale operations or movements in the region. Heightened vigilance is called for.
  • Squirrel activity is up 87% over the last two weeks — possible stockpiling in progress. Action mapping suggests multiple bunkers scattered throughout the area, exact locations undetermined.
  • Large-varmint incursions have doubled in frequency — indeterminate scent traces and scat patterns likely indicate multiple nocturnal patrols of two or three boogers, although the possiblity of larger troop movements and campaign-level force distribution cannot be ruled out at this time.
  • Aerial traffic is chaotic and uncoordinated — sudden increase in unauthorized flyovers by numerous wing-types suggests a general contest for control of airspace, yet few actual skirmishes have been noted.
Whether this scattered and hectic activity is truly as random as it appears, or is somehow connected in patterns as yet undiscovered, remains at this point unclear. Chatter is the primary concern, and all ears should remain at full swivel and alert for any coded messages piggybacking on the cacophonous tweetery.

On a personal note, I must give the Big Rodent a commendation for effort (if not brains). Eager to please as he is, for two weeks he donned a ludicrous and clearly uncomfortable radar dish in a misguided attempt to convert himself into a mobile listening station.

While this display of vigilance is laudable (though pathetic), what I need from the Rodent at this point is nose-work. Get on those scents and give me a detailed trace of troop movements in the area. Oh yes, and those scat piles they leave behind? Those are evidence. Please stop eating them.

That is all.

August 18, 2006

It's the thought that counts

It pleases me that my martial endeavors seem to have gained the support of the community. Winning the hearts and minds of the citizenry is key to any protracted campaign, as every great leader knows, from Ike to Jesse James.

The good people of Shmooldom have conscientiously been sending me nominations of worthy additions to my crack team, The Magnanimous Seven. As I am always on the lookout for good soliders to bring to the cause, I am grateful for the public's vigilance and sense of civic responsibility in this matter.

A couple of notable nominees:

Hawkeye the Navy SEAL [nomination courtesy of the Personal Secretary to Godzilla from Sandy Ego]. Fascinating. A cat that has mastered subaquatic maneuvers — the strategic possibilities seem limitless. However, on closer review of the submersion demo, I have noticed that while Hawkeye appears completely at ease in the water, and has a mastery of his diving gear, he doesn't seem to move around. At all. He just floats there, like a some kind of fur-bearing manatee. In short, it seems Hawkeye is perhaps too much at ease in the water. And we already have one sluggard on the team. So, give me a call if Hawkeye ever wakes up.

Fred the Undercover Cat [nomination courtesy of The Woman]. A master of disguise and infiltration, Fred ironically earned fame and public accolades for his undercover work — attention which inevitably compromises one's effectiveness as a plainclothescat. Sadly, Fred was recently killed in a “traffic accident” — though those of us familiar with the many enemies Fred made during his years as a flatfoot find this “accident” highly suspicious. A pity — our team could have used a dependable inside man. I assure you, inquiries are being made.

So, good intentions aside, my team stands strong but unimproved. We have here two uniquely specialized candidates of great ability, yet one is dead, the other inert. Keep those nominations coming. And thank you for your support.

August 09, 2006

The Mamarazzi

“Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.” ~Alexander Pope

Fame is a dangerous thing. In my line of business, a reputation is desirable, and I have labored long and hard to build a name that resonates far and wide among the citizenry. As another dark knight also discovered, a reputation that evolves into legend, a name whispered fearfully in the dark, is more powerful than bold action itself.

But fame... fame is another matter. Fame is the dangerous spotlight that can unravel the shadowy cloak of legend. Fame attracts the gawkers and obsequients whose sole gratification is to brush even momentarily against something great. The last thing a dark warrior needs is an entourage of hangers-on.

Thus have I learned to be wary of the press, with their incessant flash-bulbery and prod-n-poke microphonics. Lately, though, I confess with some distaste that I have caved — reluctantly, I must add — to the sin of permissiveness. I have allowed a lone photographer to infiltrate my field of operations, even to cross within my Circle of Death. Trust me, this is a one-time arrangement, but in the end I felt I had to weigh my personal misgivings against my obligations to posterity.

It helps that the aforementioned shutterbug is a familiar; it is, in fact, the Woman. And not only do I intimately recognize every nuance of her gait and demeanor, but my ground rules, obviously, have long been carved into her psyche. Thus, with this mutual understanding forming the bedrock of my forbearance, the Woman has been able to produce, with the appropriate decorum, the following exposition:

S H M O O L - E N F O T O
© 2006 The Woman

I - The Trojan Cat. It appears here that the infiltrator has effected a surprise approach to my rear quarter. Our hero is a sitting duck! Ah, but notice the ears, swiveled back and locked onto the unsuspecting victim. Note also the head and tail positioned at 1/8 clockwise rotation, the haunches tucked and coiled, the spring-loaded claws kept carefully out of sight. In less than a whisker's twitch, this seemingly-vulnerable cat-at-repose can wheel and explode into a slashing whirlwind of sudden death. Indeed, for anyone but the Woman, this would be the last vision beheld by the hapless intruder.

II - Law of the Land. The protector surveys his dominion. Here the Woman demonstrates her talent for composition. Note the framing at right, the extra space suggesting the unseen tail of the hero, thus creating a spatially-accurate portrait of the Total Cat. The ears protrude ever-so-slightly above the horizon, in symbolic representation of the warrior's 90% focus on his immediate surroundings, but with a prudent and ever-vigilant reserve of awareness of the beyond. Finally, a fence-arch in the distance here forms a natural halo over the subject's head, a Classical flourish indicating divinity.

III - Hunter at the Oasis. A simple, candid moment as the warrior pauses for refreshment. This, incidentally, is the same reservoir once invaded, and later befouled, by the vulgar crows of L'Omicidio Sanguinante. In a sense, this was the Pearl Harbor of the summer's destructive Cani-Corvine War. For their trouble, the crows earned death, dismemberment, and dishonor. And that which was mine is mine once again.

IV - Pressing Your Luck. The Woman is pushing it here. With this frontal intrusion into the Circle of Death, while the warrior is on duty and positioned front-center at the edge of his bulwark, she is in clear violation of treaty. The posture speaks for itself: ears, brow, whiskers all lowered into attack configuration; all five appendages tucked; the entire being drawn tautly inward. This is the coiled moment of patience's end. No doubt the Woman, beholding this portentious countenance in her viewfinder, fell back pallid and shaken, having glimpsed — and recorded — the face of doom itself.

V - Spirit of Ares, Body of Adonis. Truly, has Olympian strength and nobility ever been so singularly personified? Note the strong, commanding profile, the forceful concentration of attention, the head bowed ever so slightly in that contemplative posture exhibited only by the greatest of minds. The eyes alone embody tremendous fortitude and unwavering focus tempered by the serenity of great wisdom. And look at that ripped physique — even the lush, luxurious fur cannot hide the definition and tone of a body forged on the battlefield. Neither bronze nor marble could contain the godlike cut of a warrior honed to such perfection. Behold, sublimity.

August 02, 2006

Plummet of the idgit

Back in time once again for another “Year One” chronicle from the Morgue of Antiquity:

02 JULY 1995 - Into the abyss

Alarm! All hands! Man overboard!

My pretty-boy moron of a brother has gone and gotten himself into another ridiculous predicament. Through his uncanny aptitude for infiltration of forbidden spaces, he managed to locate a point of egress from this tower in which we now find ourselves imprisoned. A notable accomplishment, except that this aperature only provides access to a short and precariously narrow stretch of scaffolding a perilous 70 or 80 haunch-spans over the hard, dark, sooty firmament below, with its hellish machinations and belching chariot-demons.

Many times now, I have watched with horror and disbelief as my acumen-deprived sibling recklessly sauntered the span of this precipice -- out one portal-slot and in the other, and looking downright smug about it. Only this time, the secondary slot (his intended ingress) happened to be well-secured, leaving him marooned high above that unforgiving eternity.

Realizing his situation, his first reaction -- of course! -- was to peer though the glass and meow plaintively to ME. Sure, brother, NOW you call upon your more prudent and deliberate half to come bail you out of this idiotic situation?

Not being hard-hearted, and feeling an utterly improbable sense of responsibility for this buffoon (who, incidentally, hogs all the food-pellets), I examined the sealed portal currently separating Fabio from a long and prosperous life. Latched properly. Not a thing to be done for him -- no humans about to summon for assistance, no means of fabricating an emergency escape hatch.

It was while I was giving the latching mechanism a thorough examination that I noticed Fabio was already in the middle of a mortifyingly ill-conceived maneuver. He was attempting to turn around in place, in order to work his way back to his original insertion point. Gauging the narrowness of the ledge in relation to the length of Fabio's body, I could see as mathematical certainty the inevitable result of this moronic contortion, and pressing my face and paws against the glass, all but begged him to reconsider.

And then, I confess that for the first time in my life, I was overtaken by a squeamish horror. I turned away, closed my eyes, and waited for the splat.

After a long moment, I chanced a glance back at the precipice, and sure enough, he was gone. Well, not GONE, as it turned out, for I then saw two claws still clinging to the ledge, and when I edged closer to the glass, beheld the pathetic spectacle of my brother, hanging desperately by his front paws, dangling over the abyss, and staring up at me, eyes bulging and mouth agape in terror. And oh how he then shrieked.

That pretty much brings us up to the present. Here we are, Fabio and I, separated by a pane of glass and the chasmal difference in our wits. He is STILL out there, still valiantly clinging to life, meowing pitifully, and I remain in here, safe and cozy, gazing in vigil down at this pathetic and desperate situation, wondering if maybe these's a chance he could pull...

Whoops. There he goes.

Wow. Damn. Well. That's that, I guess. Hm.

Oh well. He was a pain to look after, anyway. Guess that means more food for me.


Some six or seven hours after Fabio's plummet into destiny, the mad Dr. Poupolis returned to the lair, at which point I attempted to inform him of the tragic demise of my ill-fated sibling. I told the story in lavish detail and with all the dramatic flare that I'm sure Fabio would have wanted, yet the Doctor just stared at me blankly in total ignorance.

I repeated the tale, and although he did listen, I still detected no lantern of cognition in his eyes. Indeed, he responded by pouring pellets into my bowl. Dinner? DINNER?! Can you not hear the words coming out of my mouth, man?

So I ate. And then, tried a third time.

This time, he seemed to get the idea. Maybe it was the fact that Fabio wasn't clawing his way up the Doctor's leg, as per ritual, or maybe that a meal had just been eaten with dignity and grace, but whatever the clue that tipped him off, he finally took notice of Fabio's absence.

Quickly, I led the man over to the infamous portal overlooking Fabio's ledge of death. I looked out the window, then up at Dr. Poupolis. He STILL didn't get it. I gave him the most acerbic and exasperated of meows, looked AGAIN out the window, and AGAIN, pointedly, up at his bewildered face.

And I wondered, how, sir, is it that YOU have not managed to fall out this window by now?

Suddenly, then, it dawned on him. I saw the horror of understanding flash across his visage.


He bolted from the lair with a speed and determination I would not ordinarily have credited in him. He will be fetching the carcass now, I thought, assuming the vultures have left anything for him to find. Not a pleasant task, but I steeled myself, in case I would be called upon to identify the flattened remains.

And then...

The Doctor returned. And there, seemingly stapled to his chest, puffing mightily and losing hair by the clump, was my brother -- shaken and scarred and covered in filth, but very much alive.

I am at a total loss to account for his survival, nor can I even begin to fathom what horrors and nightmares he witnessed and endured during his time in The Pit. All I can offer for posterity is the truism that FORTUNE FAVORS THE FOOLISH -- and never so generously as today.

And I would also be deliquent if I did not here record that within mere hours, my brother, this imbecile sine pari, was AGAIN out on that ledge.

July 21, 2006

The Magnanimous Seven

Ever since the air turned warm, the Man has spent his days lingering about the fortress, playing the silent piano in his upright coffin or worshipfully staring at his big glowing box — generally, being in the way and failing to make with the pellets in a timely manner.

The other day, however, I chanced to observe the images the big box was putting forth, and realized it was some kind of historical record of a group of lone warriors who once joined forces to battle a common enemy of vastly superior numbers. They did not have the cohesive synergies and clear command hierarchy of a conventional regimental unit, but functioned wholly as collection of individuals, each with his own strengths, each ultimately answerable only to himself.

Now that is a concept that bears further analysis.

The postwar situation around here is typically precarious. A lot of fragmented cadres and marauding gangs linger, with a lot of unresolved vendettas among them. It wouldn't take much to ignite all this bad blood into an even wider and uglier conflict. In this situation, I am perfectly able to guard what is mine, to keep these thugs off my turf. But I must also consider my responsibility to the larger world, to my fellow cats and the global cause of law and order.

The land is looking for leaders. As one, I can protect and defend what is mine, but if I built around me an elite group equally powerful warriors, if I brought together the best and brightest of felinedom, the pillars of fortitude from across the land — under my leadership, we would be invincible. And the paw of our might would be felt from the polar rats to the equatorial vermin.

To that end, I have studied the Man's warrior-documentary with care, and have concluded that seven guns are required. And after much deliberation, I believe I have compiled the necessary dossiers for this elite team:

1) General Shmool
I may not be as young as some of these other soldiers, but I am war-hardened and know my way around a battlefield. Beneath my nails has dried the blood of many a foe, yet I have won as many engagements with cunning as with my blades. Despite being a master strategist, I am also a front-line commander, leading men into battle with my saber drawn. And when I growl, you listen.

2) Grizzly Jack
Stalwart loner and fearless warrior. Afraid of absolutely nothing on this Earth. Treed a bear single-handed. Twice. Without claws. This fellow is all sand and mettle. Paws-down my first choice for a lieutenant; there is no cat in the world I'd rather have watching my back. I fear he may be too much the lone wolf, and will resist my entreaties to join forces. But every cat has a weakness, and maybe, just maybe, Jack can be convinced to fight for adventure, or for honor. To a cat of his calibre, I'm offering both.

3) Fezzik
Real name unknown. I've taken to calling him “Fezzik” because he specializes “in groups, battling gangs for local charities, that sort of thing... you see, you use different moves when you're fighting half a dozen people than when you only have to be worried about one.” In other words, he is the Brute Squad. Granted, I have not seen him fight, but I have seen him hold off an army of nine, using nothing but his eyes and a few well-chosen words. He is a wall. If I ever needed to shore up a flank or establish an impenetrable defensive line, I'd send in Fezzik.

4) Lewis “Six-Gun” Cisero
The infamous six-toed mad-dog (pardon the expression) killer of Connecticut. Chomps and slashes his victims seemingly at random, sometimes luring them in with a friendly purr before sinking his fangs into their ankles. Strikes fear in everyone from neighborhood children to the Avon Lady. Recently spared the chair for his crimes, and currently under house arrest, so we'll have to bust him out. Every team needs a loose cannon that stirs mortal terror in the enemy, and this bloodthirsty maniac is the perfect wild card.

5) Willy the Fingers
Pilferer and petty thief from Pelham. Likes gloves, and makes a small name for himself in their expropriation. Works gardens almost exclusively. Sharp and focused. Knows his game and sticks to it. He's become something of a beloved folk hero in his hometown, so he can move freely in public and can pick up information as easily as an errant Isotoner. This is our scrounger, our master of acquisitions. We keep him out of the muscle end of the business and let his sticky fingers do our gathering.

6) Fleabag
No photos exist of this fellow. I knew him many years ago in the north end, when this slick bastard infiltrated my fortress and stole my food on a daily basis. At the time he was the bane of my existence, but I also learned to admire his uncanny talent for total stealth. He was the kind of cat who managed to suddenly just be there — on your bed, in your food, or standing directly behind you — and he could vanish just as easily. He seemed able to pass through walls. He was also calm, composed, and well-mannered, though he had the teeth of a mastodon. An ideal spy.

7) Fabio
Because every team apparently needs a buffoon for comic relief. He could be our fat, warbling minstrel, singing his goofy songs about our heroic exploits.

And if things ever got really bad, we could eat him.

For a month.

July 18, 2006

Hooplers and hullabaloozers

No sooner did the hostilities cease, the shelling and bombardment come finally and mercifully to an end, than I found my fortress, my home, beseiged by a raucous menagerie of revelrous sots, toasting and hurrahing the armistice.

This coterie of dipsomaniacs apparently consisted of miscellaneous colleagues and confidants of the Man and the Woman. Why this particular lot felt the need to so heartily revel in a victory that was not their own escapes me. Indeed, the only dog in attendance at this celebration was the Big Rodent, who as far as I know had no role whatsover in the canine conquest of the renegade crows. In fact, it seems to me his only contribution the whole affair was to heave his biscuits all over the rug.

At several points throughout the uproarious evening, I could not help but not notice all eyes falling on me. I am not entirely certain, but I seemed to feel as though I were being regarded with a peculiar admiration (mixed with... bemusement?). Maybe these people, realizing that they had no representatives of the victorious faction among them, turned instead to the only bona fide war hero in the room.

Yes, yes, “all hail the conquering hero.” Now for crying out loud, pull yourselves together and get out of my house.

July 08, 2006

A pungent postbellum

The Cani-Corvine War, it seems, is over at last — brief, but furious. And it turned out to be something of a rout. The dog forces, with their excessive and seemingly inexhaustible firepower, simply overwhelmed their cunning grease-feathered foes.

Mr. Nero's crow armies surely had it coming. At best, they overplayed a shaky hand against a well-heeled and connected lot. More likely, they took a slobbery, blank grin as a sign of incompetence. Understandable. Stupidity, maybe. But incompetence? Nev- . . . well, not often, let's say.

For their part, the local dogs now seem rather pleased with themselves. Inasmuch as that's any kind of change from the norm, I feel I should point out that had the cats been left to deal with this crow menace themselves, there would have been no war. We solve our problems by stealth and shadow, with quick blades and unseen death. But dogs fight like they poop — noisy, sloppy, and out in the open. All fanfare and no subtlety.

Now, 48 hours after the cease-fire, I have completed a rough survey of the field. The burning, sulfury smell of canine ordnance still fouls the air. Every so often, a distant pop breaks the peace (cleanup crews detonating unexploded rounds, most likely). I have seen but one crow — a roughed-up and bewildered youngster wandering in endless circles on a neighboring rooftop. War is all hell.

Clearly, this affair leaves a palpable gap in leadership among the feathered. The last thing we need is endless clashes between disorganized gangs of thuggish survivors struggling for power. We need a solid and trusted captain up there if order is to be restored in the skies. We need the Cawfather back.

Don Croleone hasn't been heard from since before Mr. Nero started this little insurrection. And despite their darker dealings, the Corva Nostra are nothing if not organized and disciplined. Now, with Nero on the run (or, if there is any justice, blown to small bits and winding his way towards a labrador's colon), it is time for a corvo molto rispettato to once again pull these scattered and shaken soldiers under his wing.

I'm sure the dogs won't protest. Reconstruction has never been their strong suit.